I met Fletcher when I was gunning the engine of my car preparatory to screeching away to an appointment for which I was already late. He was perambulating down the street and further detained me by draping himself on my car, singling that he wanted to talk to me. I rolled down the window.
“Hi,” I said in that bright voice that women of my generation learned to use when we needed to mask any number of conflicting feelings.
“I was wond’ring. What kind of tree is that?”
“Apple,” I started to roll up the window.
“Now what kind of apples would they be?”
“Cause you know, I walk down this street a lot and I’ve noticed. . . say, my name’s Fletcher.”
He stuck out his hand. We shook. I inched up the window.
“I’m an electrician. If you ever need anything—”
“Really? An electrician.” I rolled the window back down. “Do you have a card?”
“And a plumber.”
“Yeah I’ve done some plumbing.”
He pulled about 175 cards out of three different pockets and began sorting.
“I just had some new ones made. Darn. Must have left them. . . here’s one. Wait, I need that phone number I’ve written on it right there.”
“I’ll write your number down and then I need to shove off,” I said.
“Yeah, yeah, good. You write down my number and you call me if you need any plumbing or electrical work. Yeah.”
I was going to throw the number away. I don’t hire electricians and plumbers off the street. On the other hand, I am on an austerity budget. And being one of their kind myself, I am often willing to give an odd duck the benefit of the doubt.
My kitchen faucet had been making death groans for some time and the gasket was disintegrating and leaking black gunk. I had two electrical outlets that needed new boxes. Gwen, my neighbor who knows something about just about everything, knows how to perform both these household chores. I was to learn later that so does Nina (rhymes with Dinah) and Chris, the unclassifiable. But they all lost out to Fletcher because he lived close and demonstrably had the time.
He arrived on foot with three bags of tools hanging off him but he didn’t have the one tool he needed nor were the two electrical replacement boxes useable. I took in the situation along with a couple of deep breaths. Fletcher had told me the job would take an hour. I was working on re-writing the bass part of “Cool Yule” so the tenors could sing it. It needed all my concentration. I needed him out of my hair.
I took him to Fred Meyer, swung by the bank, and stopped at the liquor store for bottle of Jameson. When I returned to Fred Meyer, Fletcher was still wandering the aisles. I drove him to his house where he recovered the one crucial tool he had neglected to bring the first time. In short, the job that was supposed to take an hour, took four.
When he finally left, the wall around the electrical outlets looked like a kindergartener’s project. The first time I turned on the water in the kitchen, the faucet handle snapped right off. I wasn’t going to confess any of this to anyone but the decision was usurped by Fletcher when he knocked at the door two days later during Nina’s voice lesson.
“Hi, how’s it going? Say I was wond’ring if you found my green work gloves anywhere?”
I pretended to think carefully. “No, sorry.”
“How’s everything working?”
“Fine. I’m working here, too.”
“Oh, sorry to interrupt. Look I have a few cards for you if you know anyone who-” out came the 175 cards– “needs a plumber or an electrician. I’m up here a lot and –”
“OK, I’ve got your number and I’ll call you. Bye.”
Nina looked amused. “What was that about?” she asked when I shut the door.
Once the whole story came out, I meekly accepted Nina’s offer to replace the kitchen faucet. No, gratefully accepted. She came the next Saturday afternoon with a most impressive collection of tools, a baseball cap on her head, and no butt crack.
“I’ve replaced at least five sink fixtures in my life but I’m having a small crisis of confidence at the moment. I don’t mind screwing up my own house.” She looked at me. “On the other hand, you let an itinerant hack into your walls.”
Nina replaced my kitchen faucet, not without incident, but I need another blog entry to do it justice. Suffice it to say that she has a friend who knows how to sweat copper. And Nina knew that sweating is what one does with copper. I was no end of impressed with the venous quality of her knowledge. I need to spend more time around scientists.
By the way, Fletcher called last week to see how things were going—a good business practice—and to tell me that he also fixes cars.